My God, but writing is a ruthless, selfish business, utterly incompatible with parenthood, friends, a social life, marriage, work or all-purpose general connectivity with other human beings.
Somewhere in every book about writing, there’s an abjuration to make sacrifices and investments. Give up exercise, get a room of your own. Stop date night (you could be writing), and rent a table at a local cafe with no distracting piped music and no wifi. The implication is that if you mean it, if you really, really mean it, the writing is all that counts in your life and everything else that elbows its way is an unpleasant distraction from the core business of writing. In When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, Mama and Papa slept in separate rooms so Papa could get on with his writing undisturbed (I have to confess that’s how I finished a dissertation after the birth of our daughter, little elf. But that’s another story).
There’s something wrong with that picture.
I mean, yes, you have to write everyday. I’m an enthusiastic subscriber to the ‘guilt trip’ method where every day I fail to write something that counts (and blog posts, tweets and HE institutional policy papers unfortunately don’t) is a day for flagellation and wailing. Drives my family nuts. But there are reasonable limits.
Without a life to draw on, or a family who feel looked after, I’m no kind of a rounded human being, and if I’m not a rounded human being, I’m no kind of a writer at all. So my current programme demands 500 words a day minimum and it has to be squashed into a place where it has little or no impact on the people who expect stuff from me. If I ever get leave work on time (probably because I’ve arrived early) I take it as read that I can steal an extra half an hour in a tea-shop somewhere on the way home. If I’m on a train out of hours, ditto. At weekends, my partner makes space for me on a Sunday or, if I do the shopping, its understood that I’ll find a corner and a cup of tea somewhere on the way and write. The core of my work practice, of course, is Lunch Hour, without which I’d probably never write anything. Like most things, it’s a compromise and a constant process of negotiation and I’ve had to learn new tricks. But it’s got me through two and bit drafts so far of the current WIP and it’s a workrate that at least allows me to envision completing the thing. If you want to formalise it, you could always sign up to Debbie Ridpath Ohi of Inky Girl fame’s Word A Day Challenge. It can help with that extra bit of motivation if you’ve put it out there on a badge.
Better not ask me about holidays, though. Now, excuse me but I’ve still got 500 words to write. Though a bit of me is hankering after the last half of Apocalypse Now or, say, eating.